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De Fratus steps up in big way to help Phillies win

Reliever gets big out against Indians' Reynolds in key situation as the Phillies down Cleveland, 6-2.

Justin De Fratus is a guy who knows he might be one pitch away from the minors. (Matt Slocum/AP file photo)
Justin De Fratus is a guy who knows he might be one pitch away from the minors. (Matt Slocum/AP file photo)Read more

JUSTIN DE FRATUS is a guy who knows he might be one pitch away from the minors, and Mark Reynolds is a guy who is tied for the American League lead with 11 home runs, and when the two men faced each other last night, one represented the go-ahead run and one represented his team's chance at preventing it.

But De Fratus knew what needed to be done, and he did it by throwing the exact pitch he knew Reynolds would be looking for: a 92-mph fastball in the strike zone. The result was a foul tip, so De Fratus threw another, this one clocking in at 94 mph. And while the result was again positive - a weak popout to second base that held the runner at third and provided the pivotal second out of the frame - the important thing was the mere act of doing.

"If that's the kind of situation I want to pitch in," De Fratus said, "then I can't be afraid of it."

And there was the takeaway, the bow that topped off a pretty, little 6-2 win for the Phillies. Against a team that outscored them, 20-2, in back-to-back defeats a couple of weeks beforehand, a team that entered the day having won 13 of its previous 16, the Phillies played like the better team. They were not afraid, or intimidated, or overanxious, or any of the other words or phrases that might describe the mindset you would expect from an 18-21 team staring down one of its recent ghosts.

The Indians scored a couple of runs off rookie righthander Jonathan Pettibone in the second inning to take a 2-1 lead, but the Phillies answered in the fourth with a quick rally by the bottom of the order: one-out single by Domonic Brown, one-out walk by Carlos Ruiz, one-out double by John Mayberry Jr. to seize a 3-2 lead.

Brown, who over the last few weeks has given his team plenty of reason to believe that their faith in him will be rewarded, made it 4-2 when he led off the sixth with a screaming line drive whose momentum was stopped by the lower bowl of seats in right-center. It was his seventh home run of the season, moving him past Ryan Howard and into a tie with Chase Utley for the team lead. Brown finished the night hitting .257 with a .306 on-base percentage and .441 slugging percentage for a .747 OPS that ranks third on the team (behind Utley's .858 and Michael Young's .773 and ahead of Howard's .737). It was a big run, as was the solo home run Kevin Frandsen struck off lefty Scott Kazmir in the first inning to break the seal, because it gave the Phillies a little bit of breathing room for an eighth inning in which they were without injured setup man Mike Adams, who remains day-to-day with a sore back.

Manager Charlie Manuel played it safe with Pettibone (3-0), pulling the young righty with two out in the seventh and 92 pitches on his tally and the top of a dangerous Indians lineup due up. The thought went like this: Antonio Bastardo on lefties Michael Bourn and Jason Kipinis and switch-hitters Asdrubal Cabrera and Nick Swisher, Bourn for the third out of the seventh and the next three in the eighth. Instead, Bourn singled before Bastardo retired Kipinis to end the seventh, and Cabrera tripled to lead off the eighth. But Bastardo rebounded to strike out Swisher, then walked Carlos Santana before yielding to De Fratus. Then came the aforementioned fastball-fastball sequence, which was notable because it was the second batter De Fratus had faced since his summons from the minor leagues, and it was the second batter he retired in a big situation, and it was a batter whom the front of the Phillies' bullpen has struggled to combat over the first 7 weeks of the season.

Jeremy Horst was not afraid, either, and he also threw strikes, which helped him strike out Michael Brantley to strand the runners at the corners. Jonathan Papelbon came on to close out the win, and the Phillies vanquished at least some of the memories of their earlier thrashing in Cleveland, plus moved to 19-21.

"They really took it to us; they just kicked our butts," Frandsen said of the earlier series. "You would hope that guys would realize that, and I feel like they did. The last thing you want to do in any sport, no matter what it is, baseball, basketball, hockey, is get embarrassed, and we got embarrassed over there. It was a big win tonight."

Today on Rich Hofmann writes about Jonathan Pettibone, who arrived as a temporary fifth starter and has exceeded all expectations.